Make your own inexpensive, lightweight, versatile flashlight lantern / survival kit case. Not only will this case house your flashlight, spare batteries, and additional survival goodies, but will also serve as a handy tent lantern on your next camping trip.
The case weighs just 6 ounces empty and measures 7 1/8 inches long x 2 1/4 inches in diameter. It is divided into 2 compartments. The lower compartment holds batteries and other small gear. The upper compartment holds an LED flashlight and closes with a transparent top that (1) allows the flashlight beam to shine through, (2) allows the flashlight to be turned on or off without opening the case, and (3) serves to prop the flashlight up for handsfree use when the case is open. Both the bottom compartment and the case top are attached to the case body with elastic so they can't be lost. The case can also be hung from any hook with flashlight inside to act as a small area light.
Step 1: Choose your flashlight.
This project requires an LED flashlight. Incandescent flashlights heat up when left on and should not be used in an enclosed space like this case. LED flashlights run much cooler than incandescent flashlights.
If you would like to be able to turn your flashlight on and off without removing the case's top, you should choose a flashlight with a push-button tailcap switch. The switch should not be recessed within the flashlight's tailcap.
The flashlight I used for this project is a generic Chinese-made model that I purchased in a 2-pack from Harbor Freight Tools for $3.99.
Step 2: Obtain Materials.
Materials needed include:
* One Piece of Schedule 40 ABS pipe, 1 1/2 inch diameter, at least 7 inches long
* Two ABS Couplings for 1 1/2 inch diameter ABS pipe
* One ABS End Cap for 1 1/2 inch diameter ABS pipe
* One sheet of Clear Acrylic (plexiglas), at least 1/16 thick, at least 2 1/2 inches wide x 4 1/2 inches long
The dimensions I give are for a case to house a flashlight 5 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, a common size for LED flashlights. The case can be made for any size flashlight, though -- just adjust the given dimensions accordingly.
I used ABS for this project because it is cheap, readily available, easy to work with and considerably lighter than equivalent strength PVC. The pipe and fittings used here cost less than $6.00 at home depot.
Clear acrylic sheet (plexiglas) can also be purchased at just about any hardware store for as little as $3.00 a sheet.
Step 3: Gather Tools and Adhesives.
Tools and adhesives needed include:
* Masking Tape
* ABS Cement or Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)
* Weld-On #3 or Super Glue
* Protective Gloves
* Elastic Cord, at least 18 inches long
* Measuring Tape
If ABS cement and Super Glue are used, the syringe will not be needed. I used MEK and Weld-On #3 for this project because I already had them both and because they bond more quickly and easily than ABS cement and Super Glue. Important note -- eventhough MEK is a fine adhesive for projects such as this, it should not be used to bond ABS pipe in plumbing applications.
Step 4: Cut Pipe and Plexiglas Discs.
Using the hacksaw, cut two pieces from the ABS pipe -- one 4 1/8 inches long and one 1 1/4 inches long. It is important to make straight cuts. One way to achieve this is to carefully wrap masking tape around the pipe to mark the line where the cut will be made, then use the tape to guide your cut. File the cut ends to remove burrs.
Again using the hacksaw, cut two discs from the plexiglas sheet -- one 2 1/4 inches in diameter (same as the outside diameter of the ABS coupler) and one 1.91 inches in diameter (same as the outside diameter of the ABS pipe). The ABS pipe and coupler can be used as a guide to mark these diameters on the plexiglas prior to the cut. Drill a 3/4 inch diameter hole in the center of the 2 1/4 inch diameter plexiglas disc before cutting it out of the sheet. Smooth the hole's edges with a file. The discs will have to be cut out in stages, as hacksaws don't cut curves well. Any unroundness on the resulting discs can be smoothed away with a file after the cuts are made.
Step 5: Cut Coupler.
Again use the hacksaw to cut at least one divet out of the lip of one of the ABS couplers. This coupler will become the case's top. I cut two divets out of the top for my case, opposite eachother on the same lip, one deeper than the other. These divets will support the case when it is propped up for handsfree use. The deep divet on my case top is 5/8 inch deep and 2 inches wide, and the shallow divet is 1/8 inch deep and 1/2 inch wide. File the cut edges to
Step 6: Bond Base Pieces.
Bond the 1 1/4 inch long piece of cut pipe to the ABS end cap. If using ABS cement or Super Glue, follow instructions on the bottle or tube and join the pieces after applying the cement. Move quickly. Push the cut pipe into the end cap as far as it will go. Allow adequate time for adhesive to cure.
If using MEK, join the pieces before applying the MEK. Push the cut pipe into the end cap as far as it will go. Follow the safety instructions on the can. Put on protective gloves. Draw a few cc of MEK into the syringe and inject it along the joint between the pieces. The MEK will spread along the joint through capillary action and cure enough to continue to the next step within minutes.
The bonded piece will be case's base.
Step 7: Drill Holes for Elastic.
Drill one hole on each side of the case's base. Place the holes opposite eachother, roughly 5/8 inch from the closed end. The diameter of all drilled holes should be just larger than the diameter of the elastic cord you plan to use.
Drill two holes per side on opposite sides of the 4 1/8 inch long piece of cut pipe. Place the first hole of each pair roughly 1 inch from one end of the piece and the second hole of the pair roughly 1 1/4 inch from the same end (making the two holes about 1/4 inch apart).
Drill one hole on each side of the case's top. Place the holes opposite eachother, roughly 3/8 inch from the uncut end.
Step 8: Bond Plexiglas Discs to ABS.
Bond the 2 1/4 inch diameter plexiglas disc to the uncut end of the case's top. If using Super Glue, follow instructions on the tube and join the pieces after applying the glue. Allow adequate time for adhesive to cure.
If using Weld-On #3, put on protective gloves, follow the safety instructions on the can, and hold the pieces together before applying the adhesive. Draw a few cc of Weld-On #3 into the syringe and inject it along the joint between the pieces. The adhesive will spread along the joint through capillary action and cure enough to continue to the next step within minutes.
Use the same technique to bond the 1.91 inch diameter plexiglas disc to the end of the 4 1/8 inch long cut pipe farthest from the drilled holes.
Step 9: Bond Midsection.
Bond the plexiglas end of the 4 1/8 inch long piece of cut pipe to the remaining ABS coupler.
If using ABS cement or Super Glue, follow instructions on the bottle or tube and join the pieces after applying the cement. Move quickly. Push the plexiglas end of the cut pipe into the coupler as far as it will go. Allow adequate time for adhesive to cure.
If using MEK, join the pieces before applying the MEK. Push the plexiglas end of the cut pipe into the coupler as far as it will go. Follow the safety instructions on the can. Put on protective gloves. Draw a few cc of MEK into the syringe and inject it along the joint between the pieces. The MEK will spread along the joint through capillary action and cure enough to continue to the next step within minutes.
The bonded piece will be case's midsection.
Step 10: Install Elastic
If you wish to paint the case, as I have done, pre-assemble the case's sections, protect the exposed plexiglas with masking tape, and install the elastic after the paint has dried.
Cut the elastic in two 9 inch long cords. Tie a knot at one end of one cord. Thread the cord through one hole in the case's top so that the knot is inside the top. Thread the unknotted end through one of the holes closest to the open end of the case's midsection. Thread from the outside of the midsection to the inside. Once through the hole, tie a knot in the cord inside the midsection about 2 1/2 inches from the first knot. Thread the unknotted end through the second hole of the pair. Finally thread the end of the cord through one of the holes in the case's base. Thread from the outside of the base to the inside. Once through the hole, tie a knot in the cord inside the base about 4 3/4 inches from the second knot.
Repeat on the opposite side of the case with the second cord.
Once elastic is in place, case is assembled and ready to use. Place batteries in base and attach base to coupler portion of midsection. Place flashlight, tailcap first, in open end of midsection and close midsection with top.
Step 11: Go Camping!
Turn flashlight on (or off) by sticking your finger through the hole in the plexiglas disc portion of the case's top and pushing on the flashlight's lens. This forces the pushbutton switch on the flashlight's tailcap against the closed end of the case's midsection, actuating the switch.
The flashlight can be used three ways -- (1) in hand, like a flashlight without a case, (2) handsfree, propped at a useful angle upon its own top, and (3) hanging from any hook to light an area from above.
Because the case is roomy enough to hold more than the flashlight and batteries, it can also be used to carry a basic survival kit. At a minimum, I recommend storing a skein of paracord in each compartment to keep the flashlight and batteries from rattling against the case's sides.
Total project cost is under $15.00 if super glue is the only adhesive used and all materials, flashlight, adhesive, and elastic must be purchased. A 4 ounce can of ABS cement generally costs around $4.50, a liter (lifetime supply) of MEK will run you about $10.00. Both are hardware store items. Weld-On #3 can be found at various online vendors, such as delviesplastics.com for about $6.00 per 4 ounces. I had several of the necessary materials and adhesives already around the house, so my final cost was $8.00.
Hope you find this device useful. Thanks for looking!